NEWS, RAMBLINGS AND AWARDS                                  OCTOBER 2010
                          THE SOUPSAYER'S GUIDE TO ANNOYING FOLK


Lesson 1g - 'Excuse me, but where is Younger's Tartan Special brewed these days, then?'

Lesson 3a - 'Pardon me for asking, but when you say Belhaven Best is an ale, what exactly do you mean by that?'

Lesson 3d - 'Okay okay okay, let me get this right then... so what you're saying is you sometimes have a cask of real ale open and being served for as long as seven days... is that correct?' (For best effect, this question is best followed by a faint on hearing the answer.)

Lesson 5h - 'If that ale's not on, why do you have its pump-clip facing outwards to tempt me?'

Lesson 12j - 'Barman, sir, might you please explain to me what happens to that beer in the drip-tray?'

Lesson 12k - 'Recycled? Recycled?' (Swoon theatrically to the ground and await resuscitation.)

Lesson 49a - 'That cask of real ale's been on a week? And you say it's just on? Please don't tell me you think it's okay to serve it right up to the Best Before date... PLEASE!'

Lesson 56t - 'Barman, can you please make a call to the Ministry of Defence. I think I have successfully invented a Cloak of Invisibility.'

Lesson 852a - 'Can you give me a free taste of that, that, that and that.'
BEST SOUP IN SCOTLAND AWARD goes to Brian's Cafe in Bo'ness.

BEST ALE BREWED IN SCOTLAND AWARD goes to 'Seven Giraffes', a superb ale brewed by the Williams Brothers in Alloa.

BEST PUB AWARD goes to Greyfriars Bar in Perth. Go there now to find out why.

BEST THING TO SEE AWARD goes to the panoramic view from Edinburgh's Calton Hill.

BEST LITTLE WALK AWARD goes to the forest track through Mugdock Wood in Milngavie.

Street clutter. There's a lot of it about, is there not? It is present in many forms, but mainly it is those A-framed pavement signs that seem constantly to be in the way. I saw one the other day. It said, 'WE ARE OPEN,' which was fairly obvious as lights blazed and the shop doorway was  open. Clearly in these difficult financial times it is not enough to have a shop or pub or cafe with an open door. You also need an A-framed pavement sign, a banner slung across your frontage, and someone handing out leaflets, invariably dressed as a bear.
The A-framed signs are a particular nuisance. I saw two of them recently, side by side and almost blocking the pavement. How people with sight problems or folk with prams manage I do not know, but it must be pretty difficult trying to manoeuvre your way around the obstacle course.
Then there are buckets, plonked on the pavement with all the grace of a muddy hippo. They appeared after the smoking ban, and are used by smokers for their fag-ends. I just don't get it - how can you get away with placing what is obviously a tripping hazard on the sidewalk without having to apply for, at the very least, a license?
Someone tell me.
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MARCH 2010
APRIL 2010

MAY 2010
JUNE 2010
JULY 2010
Ode To Poo

Oh ye little dod o' poo,
Ye're nothin' but some doggy-doo,
Ye're role in life is pretty nasty,
Tae stick tae shoes an' smell quite ghastly,
Sometimes ye hide in piles o' leaves,
Ah'm aff yon tree, ye'd huv us believe,
But then ye're stood on an' spread aroon',
An' get tae travel all ower the toon.

Before I start rabbitting on about this and that I'd just like to say that I desperately want to put an apostrophe in there. Somewhere. I mean, it doesn't matter if it's lots of curlers or just the one, there should still be a little typographical curved thingy hanging like a crescent moon. (SAVE OUR APOSTROPHES!)
Anyway, the old pub in Glasgow's Byres Road has reopened after being given a lick of paint. Have they done a good job? Hard to say. It feels quite dim inside, with low lighting and a few dismally dark and perhaps atmospheric corners where one can sit down and spend a while talking to your partner only to discover that your partner's over in that other table and you've been stroking the hand of a complete stranger.
There is one nice seat by a bowed oriel window looking out onto the hustle and bustle of Byres Road, but it's hard to get to sit there because everyone seems to recognise it as a good seat and as a consequence it's always taken. It's a fine window, one with those small rectangular panes of glass that are so evocative of ye olden days. If you're lucky enough to sit at it, it can be very pleasant looking out onto the street. It's one of few seats in the place that offers daylight and a warm feeling of contentment.
And, the thing is, it is located where the old snug used to be. No doubt many men of words - and maybe the odd wumman (odd, as in few in number, as opposed to odd because of some deformity like eyeballs bobbing around on stalks!) - would have looked out of the same window far back in the mists of time. I'm sure they would have been thinking deep serious thoughts like, 'Someday, way in the future, someone will gaze out of this very window and think deep serious thoughts like, 'why didn't they reinstate the snug?''
Why oh why indeed.
Rating System details for The Good Soup Guide, Scotland's online tourist guide

There’s a guy works down the chip-shop thinks he’s King Richard the Second
This month we feature Glasgow Cathedral. Unlike many cathedrals in England and around the world, Glasgow Cathedral is a no-frills, no-nonsense lump of grey stone that is somehow exceedingly beautiful. If you creep into the Lower Chapter House, you may see the missing window and guess where the secret tunnel entrance may be (See the book, Beneath The Ground, as featured in The Good Soup Guide shop.)
Glasgow Cathedral in the dear green place

9th & 10th October
[12.00 noon to 4.00pm]


Stirling Castle is a castle and a half. That doesn't mean you have a castle then another bit glued on. It means the castle is one of the best in the country, offering high levels of intactness and superb views all over this part of Scotland. The fact that this weekend you have the added bonus of an event is almost too good for words. The event is called, 'HOLDING SCOTLAND FOR THE KING 1651,' and involves a peek at garrison life and the reasons Scotland was at war with England. There are sure to be swords and muskets involved. Remember, that if you wander down to the foot of Broad Street you will find the Darnley Coffee House, The Good Soup Guide's 2009 Winner of The Best Soup in Scotland Award. You cannot visit Stirling and not have soup here.

A magnificent exhibition is being hosted by Paisley Museum between September 10th 2010 and January 9th 2011. It features original plaster cast models - each a work of art in its own right - used by the sculptor during the creation of the many projects he has undertaken at home and abroad. This is one of the most fascinating exhibitions I have seen anywhere in a good long while. The giant piece at the top of the museum's main stairway is utterly awesome. Never has an object looked so at home in a particular place.

Two notable establishments have opened in Glasgow in the last few weeks. One is Curlers Rest in Byres Road, the other is Criterion on Dumbarton Road. The former has opened following renovation of the well-established Curlers Bar, the latter has opened further to renovation of an old shop. The former renovation is, in my view, a wasted opportunity and a big letdown. The latter is a breath of fresh air and a truly magnificent place. And why, exactly, do I think this?
Well, Curlers Bar used to have a tiny snug. It was a meeting place for renowned poets and men of thought. Then the small snug was ripped out during a previous renovation, and the snug ceased to exist. In the nearby Oran Mor you can see wall paintings that were saved from the snug. During this recent renovation I feel the owners have missed a great opportunity to reinstate the snug, a cosy little place to sit in and dream and discuss and pontificate. Now, after much cash has been spent, it's just another pub, and nothing special.
Criterion, on the other hand, is a joy. It is a 'Grand Cafe and Saloon' and so grand that it is without question a Three-Hippo affair. What used to be just another rundown shop at 568 Dumbarton Road in Partick has been transformed into a thing of beauty. A lot of the internal fixtures and fittings have been re-used from other old buildings, and many of these come from the famous Moscardinis cafe in Falkirk.
I mean, let's not beat about the bush here, Moscardinis should never have been ripped out in the first place. It was an untouched Victorian gem, complete with nineteenth century wooden booths and a marble soda water dispenser. It should have had the same degree of architectural protection as that afforded to the grandest stately home. But somehow, someone came along, ripped it all out, and built a modern ten-for-a-penny cafe that looks about as inspiring as a kipper. It was an utter disgrace, and someone in Falkirk District Council should, at the very least, be hanging their head in shame.
But, having said all that, at least those internal features were not lost forever. Many were saved and have found their way into Criterion. For if you pay it a visit, you will see those glorious old carved wooden booths, the marble soda dispenser, and many other things saved from the skip. The fact that Criterion's owner has seen fit to use such material means you can be assured from the outset that this is not just a first-rate business, but without question one of the best Grand Cafe and Saloons in all of Scotland. Go there now, without delay.

BO'NESS - October 1st & 2nd, at Bo'ness Town Hall. You'll be able to sample many good Scottish ales, like the Inveralmond Brewery's 'Perth 800'; Williams Brothers' 'Seven Giraffes' or 'Ceilidh Lager' (mmmm); Tryst Brewery's 'Toffee Wheat Beer' (mmmmmmmm); Stewart Brewing's 'Hollyrood (Worlds Best Blond Beer Without an Apostrophe)'; and many more. Bo'ness can be reached by bus from Linlithgow, which has a train station, and trains. Remember to pop into Brian's Cafe in Bo'ness to line your tummy with a good bowl of soup before taking on any ale.

TROON - October 7th to 9th, at the Concert Hall. Open 5pm to 11pm on Thursday, 11am to midnight on Friday, and 11am to 11pm on Saturday. The Concert Hall's a nice old musty building where you can quaff ale and forget about the drudgeries of life. You can get a train to Troon from Glasgow Central railway station. Or, if you're very rich, you could perhaps take your helicopter, in which case please pick me up first.

ALLOA - October 22nd & 23rd, at the Town Hall. Open 5pm to 11pm on Friday, and noon to 11pm on Saturday. Evenings are very busy. I like to go early on Saturday afternoon when it's quiet, you can get easy access to the counter, and after a few ales you may corner some poor soul and tell him or her your life story. You can get a train to Alloa from Glasgow.